Saturday, April 15, 2017

2145 L/Corporal Gilbert Arthur Heasman MM, 11th Australian Imperial Force

Digital copies of Gilbert Heasman’s World War One service papers can be viewed on-line at The National Archives of Australia.  Although the photograph of him on the right is undated, the presence of lance-corporal’s stripes suggests that it must date from after September 1918.  A summary of his service history follows.

When he attested on 12th April 1915, Gilbert Heasman was 22 years old.  He had been born at Lewes in 1893, his birth registered there in the June quarter of that year.  He was the third son of Edric Owen Heasman and Annie Heasman (nee Message) whose marriage was registered at Uckfield, Sussex in the December quarter of 1887.

The 1901 census shows the Heasman family living at Whitehouse Number One, East Chiltington, Sussex.  Edric Heasman (aged 36 and born at Mayfield) is noted as “stockman on farm”.  His 35 year old wife Annie Heasman is recorded as having been born in London.  Children noted are: Albert Heasman (aged 12, born in Bodle Street, Sussex),  Frederick Heasman (aged 10, born East Chiltington), Gilbert Arthur Heasman (aged seven, born in East Chiltington according to the census)), Daisy May Heasman (aged five, born East Chiltington) and Grace Hilda Heasman (aged two and also born in East Chiltington).  A two year old boarder, John A Irquhart (possibly), born in Liverpool, is also living at the address, as is a 59 year old widower from Wivelsfield, George Mitchell.  Two further children would also be born: Beatrice Heasman in 1907 and Percival Heasman in 1910.

Gilbert emigrated to Western Australia in 1912, following his brother Albert who had emigrated early the previous year.  Frederick would join his brothers in 1913. Prior to enlisting in the AIF, Gilbert and Albert worked as fettlers, helping to lay the railway line from Geraldton to Mt Magnet, a gold mining town.  In 1915, Gilbert joined the Australian Imperial Force.

On attestation at Geraldton, Western Australia, Gilbert gave his trade as Fettler and his next of kin as his father, Edric Owen Heasman, now living at Tutts Farm, South Common, Chailey.  He was five feet, six and a half inches tall, had dark brown hair, dark eyes and a medium complexion.  Distinctive marks were noted as vaccination marks plus scars on his left shin and left wrist. 

He was given the number 2145 and, on 6th May 1915, posted to the 6th Reinforcements of the 11th Battalion AIF.  This battalion had originally been formed in Western Australia in August 1914.

On 7th June 1915 he embarked for Alexandria from Fremantle, Australia aboard Geelong.  Arriving in Egypt he then embarked for the Dardanelles aboard HMT Berrima on 31st July 1915.  Five days later at Gallipoli, he was taken on strength by the 11th AIF but it wasn’t long before he was reporting sick.  On 24th August he was admitted to hospital with diarrhoea and, a few days later, on 7th September, was admitted to the 25th Casualty Clearing Station at Imbros with a recurrence of diarrhoea.  Two days later he was admitted to hospital and then, on the 12th September, to the 1st Australian Casualty Clearing Station.  He remained in hospital until 26th September, re-joining his unit the following day.

Gilbert then remained at Gallipoli until the evacuation was ordered, although the precise date of his departure from the peninsular is unclear.  He disembarked from HMT Lake Michigan at Alexandria on 6thJanuary but hadn’t been in Egypt long (27th January) before he was back in hospital (No 2 General Hospital, Cairo) with jaundice.  Further spells in hospital followed while he was in Egypt but on 23rd March 1916 he embarked at Alexandria for France, arriving at Marseilles on 5th April.

On 4th October Gilbert Heasman was awarded the Military Medal in the Field for gallantry at Pozieres. Chailey Parish Magazine and The London Gazette both noted this the following month.  He appears to have remained in France for the remainder of the war.  He was appointed lance-corporal in September 1918 and granted leave only after the Armistice had been signed, on 20th November 1918.  Between 22nd November and 7th December 1918 he was in the UK, presumably spending at least some of this time with his parents in Chailey.  He also took the opportunity, on 27th November, to marry Beatrice Ethel Weaver (born 1886 in East Chiltington).

Returning to France in early December, he then remained there until 5th February 1919 when he returned to the UK for embarkation to Australia on the 21st.  He was discharged there on 11th April 1919.  A medical board held on 10th June 1919 gave him a clean bill of health (despite his various hospital stays) and also noted that he had enlisted originally at Mount Magnet in March 1915.

After the war, for a short time, Albert and Gilbert ran a greengrocer’ shop in West Perth.  He had intended to settle in Australia with his wife but because of some difficulty in her settling there with him, he returned to England in 1920.  Two years later, their only child, Doris Heasman, was born at Lewes.

Gilbert remained in England for the rest of his life and died in 1965.  His medals are held at The Fremantle War Museum in Australia.

Gilbert’s brothers Albert and Frederick also served their King and Country during the First World War.

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